Region 8 Police: Repeat drug offenders pose many problems

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) – Officials with the Trumann Police Department told Region 8 News this week that law enforcement agencies across the state have problems dealing with repeat drug offenders, particularly those who have been convicted of methamphetamine.

According to Detective Erik Wilbanks, officers who have been on the force for several years have arrested the same people on drug charges multiple times and that puts a drain on police agencies and the judicial system.

"It ties up all our resources, it clogs up the court system, it's just we're spending all these resources and putting the same people in jail," said Wilbanks. "It's not the police officers faults, it's not the prosecutor's fault or the judge's fault, it's just a lack of correctional space, correctional facility space."

Wilbanks said he's arrested individuals for manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine, but when they post bond or bail out, police have arrested the same person for drugs.

"The main thing is just the addiction itself but then also you've got ones that have been arrested, that have got a name for themselves," said Wilbanks.

Wilbanks said many drug offenders have a difficult time finding work, and when they can't find work they go back to the very thing that got them in trouble.

"I hear a lot of them say it's hard to find a job. That complicates things," said Wilbanks. "Lots of times it turns them back to the streets to doing illegal acts to get their money."

According to state law, when a person is convicted of methamphetamine possession, they can be sentenced to probation and rehabilitation; however, Chief of Police Tony Rusher says rehabilitation services aren't efficient to solve drug problems.

"What happens usually is the first time around you get arrested, get placed on probation, once your under probation, you're put under a microscope, you're subject to search by any law enforcement," said Rusher. "For one reason or another, they're not getting a cure, this treatment's not working."

Rusher said he's not sure what can be done to improve rehabilitation programs or cut down on the number of repeat drug offenders who get a "slap on the hand".

"You got to try something else if this isn't working, you're going down a road, it isn't working, you got to go left or right, you got to try something different," said Wilbanks. "They're not going to get help unless they want help."

"Things are helping and we're making some headway, it's just as long as there's going to be an addiction, as long as somebody has got the addiction and somebody has got the means to make the dope or produce the dope or transport the dope, then it's going to be here," said Wilbanks.

Rusher said another problem is a societal one. He said many people look at drug offenders negatively, even after they've gotten clean.

"They go back out into the real world and they're trying to get a job, trying to get right, stay straight, and it's like they've been branded and nobody gives them a chance," said Rusher. "People need a chance because if you don't give them a chance, it's not going to change. They're not going to change."

Jimmy Creecy was arrested in 2004 on charges of possession of methamphetamine. Creecy said before his arrest, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine consumed his life.

"The first thing I ever did was probably meth and I was 38 years old when I started doing that," said Creecy. "You get to that point to where it's everything you think you have to have it in order to just live."

When he couldn't find meth, he turned to the other drugs. He said trying to get clean was difficult at first, but he surrounded himself by family and friends who were non-addicts.

Creecy, who is now the Assistant Director of the Open Arms Ministry in Trumann, said his eight years of addiction were some of his worst experiences.

"I seen a lot of people die from it, and a lot of times when you see people die, you'll want to quit, oh I'm going to quit after I seen that, but after that fear is gone, you're right back doing it again," said Creecy.

"If you want to stop doing it, you have to have that want to, you have to have that willpower and be committed because if you don't have it in your mind to stop, you're not going to stop," said Creecy. "A lot of people don't have a second chance and that's why we have a support group meeting, just trying to give people that second chance."

Open Arms Ministry holds monthly meetings for addicts who want to get clean every Tuesday night at 7:00 in Trumann.

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